Overall Rating Reporter
Overall Score
Liaison Megan Curtis-Murphy
Submission Date May 28, 2021
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.1

Northeastern University
OP-19: Waste Minimization and Diversion

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete Reporter Casey Shetterly
Special Projects - Sustainability
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Figures needed to determine total waste generated (and diverted):
Performance Year Baseline Year
Materials recycled 1,171.17 Tons 892.40 Tons
Materials composted 1,055.46 Tons 240 Tons
Materials donated or re-sold 6.50 Tons 0 Tons
Materials disposed through post-recycling residual conversion 0 Tons 0 Tons
Materials disposed in a solid waste landfill or incinerator 3,252 Tons 3,386 Tons
Total waste generated 5,485.13 Tons 4,518.40 Tons

A brief description of the residual conversion facility, including affirmation that materials are sorted prior to conversion to recover recyclables and compostable materials:

not applicable

Start and end dates of the performance year and baseline year (or three-year periods):
Start Date End Date
Performance Year Jan. 1, 2019 Dec. 31, 2019
Baseline Year Jan. 1, 2005 Dec. 31, 2005

A brief description of when and why the waste generation baseline was adopted (e.g. in sustainability plans and policies or in the context of other reporting obligations):

We chose 2005 as our base year because it the year that concerted efforts to begin documentation and conservation for sustainability purposes. Different efforts ramped forward at different points in time but we determined it was a more accurate representation if we kept the same baseline for as many credits as we could confirm accuracy in data.

Figures needed to determine "Weighted Campus Users”:
Performance Year Baseline Year
Number of students resident on-site 8,262 6,741
Number of employees resident on-site 40 30
Number of other individuals resident on-site and/or staffed hospital beds 0 0
Total full-time equivalent student enrollment 30,434 18,492
Full-time equivalent of employees (staff + faculty) 5,060 2,949
Full-time equivalent of students enrolled exclusively in distance education 4,340 0
Weighted campus users 25,441 17,773.50

Total waste generated per weighted campus user:
Performance Year Baseline Year
Total waste generated per weighted campus user 0.22 Tons 0.25 Tons

Percentage reduction in total waste generated per weighted campus user from baseline:

Percentage of materials diverted from the landfill or incinerator by recycling, composting, donating or re-selling, performance year:

Percentage of materials diverted from the landfill or incinerator (including up to 10 percent attributable to post-recycling residual conversion):

In the waste figures reported above, has the institution recycled, composted, donated and/or re-sold the following materials?:
Yes or No
Paper, plastics, glass, metals, and other recyclable containers Yes
Food Yes
Cooking oil Yes
Plant materials Yes
Animal bedding No
White goods (i.e. appliances) Yes
Laboratory equipment Yes
Furniture Yes
Residence hall move-in/move-out waste Yes
Scrap metal Yes
Pallets Yes
Tires Yes
Other (please specify below) Yes

A brief description of other materials the institution has recycled, composted, donated and/or re-sold:

text books
brown grease
ink and toner cartridges
Construction and demolition waste

Materials intended for disposal but subsequently recovered and reused on campus, performance year (e.g. materials that are actively diverted from the landfill or incinerator and refurbished/repurposed) :

Does the institution use single stream recycling (a single container for commingled recyclables) to collect standard recyclables (i.e. paper, plastic, glass, metals) in common areas?:

Does the institution use dual stream (two separate containers for recyclables, e.g. one for paper and another for plastic, glass, and metals) to collect standard recyclables (i.e. paper, plastic, glass, metals) in common areas?:

Does the institution use multi-stream recycling (multiple containers that further separate different types of materials) to collect standard recyclables (i.e. paper, plastic, glass, metals) in common areas?:

Average contamination rate for the institution’s recycling program (percentage, 0-100):

A brief description of any recycling quality control mechanisms employed, e.g. efforts to minimize contamination and/or monitor the discard rates of the materials recovery facilities and mills to which materials are diverted:

Recycling stations across campus are paired with trash receptacles to provide consistent opportunity for recycling alongside disposal. Containers are labeled, with supplemental signage above the containers where possible. Facility staff monitor containers for contamination and remove items improperly disposed or recycled whenever possible. On-site compactors are clearly marked as trash, cardboard, paper or single stream recycling as applicable. Facility staff monitor compactors for proper use.

A brief description of the institution's waste-related behavior change initiatives, e.g. initiatives to shift individual attitudes and practices such as signage and competitions:

Efforts are underway to standardize waste and recycling containers across campus to provide visual recognition for proper waste and recycling sorting. A related initiative is standardization of signage, focusing on signage that is consistent with the State's outreach/education efforts as well as industry standards such as signage developed by Recycle Across America.

A brief description of the institution's waste audits and other initiatives to assess its materials management efforts and identify areas for improvement:

The University engaged outside experts to conduct a materials management assessment of campus waste and recycling operations, and has implemented certain of the recommendations aimed at improving efficiency and achieving a higher diversion rate. Over the years, the University has conducted numerous waste audits, including and audit in December 2019 to assess the composition of the recycling stream and the amount and type of contamination.

A brief description of the institution's procurement policies designed to prevent waste (e.g. by minimizing packaging and purchasing in bulk):

Northeastern University belongs to the Massachusetts Higher Education Consortium which consists of procurement departments from University and local governments that leverage their individual university purchases into much larger bulk purchases to achieve greater economies of scale. Northeastern also subscribes to the Greater New England Minority Supplier Development Council which considers the support of minority business enterprises. We also consider purchasing locally for the benefit of reducing our carbon footprint. We utilize a warehouse to store bulk items and reuse products.

For example, in response to the pandemic in 2020, Northeastern University bought PPE in bulk from multiple local sources and had purchased custom hand sanitizer stations so there would be less plastic waste on campus. This was a change from convention which would have been to buy everyone an 8oz hand sanitizer bottle for their desks. Despite the many overseas alternatives that were presented to us, we still sourced PPE locally with a minority supplier, as we wanted to keep our bulk purchasing in the US as to avoid overseas shipping.

A brief description of the institution's surplus department or formal office supplies exchange program that facilitates reuse of materials:

Surplus departmental office furniture is stored in a central location and is available for use by any other office or department on a first come first serve basis. Dormitory furniture is typically used for its entire useful life. We hired a coop student this semester to develop an inventory management plan/system reuse and donation.

A brief description of the institution's platforms to encourage peer-to-peer exchange and reuse (e.g. of electronics, furnishings, books and other goods):

The University has implemented an asset disposition process which facilitates effective management of assets and allows for consideration of highest and best use ahead of recycling/ disposal (e.g., sale donation , loan or internal transfer). The Northeastern University bookstore provides for exchange/reuse through a textbook rental and textbook buyback program. The University supports student-led initiatives, including Trash to Treasure, which collects household/dorm goods and materials for resale or donation. Similarly, the University houses a "Little Free Library" in the Marino Recreation Center to encourage peer exchange of books.

A brief description of the institution's limits on paper and ink consumption (e.g. restricting free printing and/or mandating doubled-sided printing in libraries and computer labs):

The Procurement Office continues implementing new changes that it started over five years ago to facilitate a more sustainable University-wide procurement program. The preferred online E-Commerce system has grown substantially and complements the online Marketplace’s logos that foster easier searches/access to environmentally preferable products. The purchased paper contract specifies a 30% minimum post consumer content. Other initiatives include duplex printing and pay to print, both of which have been instrumental in significant reduction of paper usage.

A brief description of the institution's initiatives to make materials (e.g. course catalogs, course schedules, and directories) available online by default rather than printing them:

All course catalogs, schedules and directories are available online. If students or others desire printed versions they have to purchase them from print shop.

A brief description of the institution's program to reduce residence hall move-in/move-out waste:

During move-in and move-out, the University increases the number of staff and contract personnel and services that are available to manage the large volumes of waste and to ensure that suitable materials are diverted to recycling. In addition, the University supports student led initiatives including Trash to Treasure which collects household/dorm goods and materials for resale or donation.

A brief description of the institution's programs or initiatives to recover and reuse other materials intended for disposal:

To the maximum extent possible, the University collects and reuses pallets for on-campus operational needs. Excess pallets or pallets that are broken and no longer usable are diverted to recycling and/or other reuse opportunities. The university recovers and recycles batteries, including alkaline batteries that are not subject to Universal Waste Management requirements.

The website URL where information about the programs or initiatives is available:

Additional documentation to support the submission:

The University uses a combination of recycling methods. Single stream recycling is used in outdoor areas with smart bin technology (fill level sensors) including some solar-powered compacting bins. Dual stream recycling is used in indoor common areas of academic buildings to collect paper separate from recyclable containers. Multi-stream recycling is used in common areas of residential buildings to further separate cardboard from paper.

The information presented here is self-reported. While AASHE staff review portions of all STARS reports and institutions are welcome to seek additional forms of review, the data in STARS reports are not verified by AASHE. If you believe any of this information is erroneous or inconsistent with credit criteria, please review the process for inquiring about the information reported by an institution or simply email your inquiry to stars@aashe.org.